Day Nine – Biggles Splits the Atom and Other Quaint Tales of Death


Daphne rises out of bed, leaving it still occupied as she does so, and drags her toes in graceful steps towards the bathroom. The light was left on through night, and she cannot recall if it was herself–perhaps the scotch-drunk male in her bed–who had last visited the tiled closet. She kicks a pile of her own clothes and looks into the reflective surface of the mirror before her. Daphne scratches at her short red hair, then heaves her breasts upward with a sigh. He seemed not to care during the night that she was thirty-nine and an abuser. At this age, she thought to herself, abuse is more fun than gallantly declaring age is meaningless. Her breasts fall and jiggle slightly.

Daphne sighs.

The phone call had come around two o’clock, and the voice on the other end was one that had formerly whispered sweet sexual commands while in her–well before the self-abuse began. The caller, a former lover who branded himself as Mr. Poppageorgio, had been a social dictator much like herself. While she angled towards the spangled spires of the realms of advertising executives, he had casually let himself maneuver into a position as the premier literary agent of the late metropolis they had defiled by their presence.

The last time they had spoken, he had given her instructions on preparing a perfect vindaloo. The sex that followed had been awkward as he had refused to remove the silver cross from around his neck. When Daphne had questioned his refusal to remove the trinket, Mr. Poppageorgio explained that it was a gift from a swamp god, and that to remove it would be to hasten his turn from babe to elderly man. As Daphne had listened to his voice on the other end, she regarded the other man she had chosen to sleep with that night. The unlucky drunk was in his late twenties, that age when the male species, if not already married, begins to doubt their worth. He was a sad troubadour with only half a tongue in an age of mistakes and regrets. As he slumbered there, Daphne had a unwelcome vision of the man aging rapidly before her very eyes. As the vision faded, she felt an urge to cut him with knives–not out of rage, but out of a desire to make a baby. Daphne had relented to the voice and agreed that a corpse would be a happy escape from the remains of the day previous–said remains being still sprawled across a sex-stained comforter. Perhaps it was then, after biting her lip and ending the call, that Daphne had risen from bed to urinate and left the light on, she cannot recall. That had been hours ago, and the blame is now firmly with the body on the bed, regardless of the truth.

The funeral is in a small town far from the alleys and board rooms where Daphne sells people their own shit-stained greed back to them. The occasion calls for proper attire, and, in disregard for that, Daphne acquires a red Tubeway Army t-shirt from a pile of filthy, wrinkled clothes. She completes the travesty with jeans she knows are too tight.

Absently, she scratches at her red hair before dressing herself. The man in her bed will wake and leave as she expects him to. He will stand blankly before her open refrigerator, disappointed at the lack of everything. He will piss on her toilet seat, leave hair in her shower, and may peruse her carefully staged porn collection. She keeps the best flicks in her aquarium, a fact he will not discover due to his aversion to fish, most likely. Without giving him another thought, she turns off the bathroom light and departs her townhouse apartment, pausing only momentarily to scratch her cat’s head on the way out. Once outside, she makes her way to her red Ford F-150, a gift from an ailing former fling, now in a coma somewhere in the Middle East. She recalls, standing there in the mist of the morning, the last time she had spoken to that particular man of the hour. He had just returned from Iraq, or Korea, or Assyria, or the Spánverjavígin, carrying that deep glow that spoke of atrocities–APCs rolling over dead bodies, shivs in the streets, fish thievery, and, gods above and below, the golden stench of fallen despots. The coma had come on gradually. Daphne remembers seeing it in his eyes one night when he had requested they mimic random pornography and film it with outdated equipment. The coma was yellow in his pupils, a putrescence obtained deep in the jungles of a man’s fear of other men. He had killed many men by that time, all of them himself.

Daphne reluctantly scratches at her red hair and enters the truck to depart. As she starts her vehicle, she looks up in time to see the blinds of her front window click shut. It may have been the cat, but it is possible that her guest has finally shaken off the gluey blanket of the scotch’s morning comforts.

Rolling out of the parking lot, she angles her tire to crush a discarded plastic cup and begins her journey.

The small town is well outside of her familiarity, and twice Daphne becomes lost.

The first diversion ends at an Asian market an hour out of the city.

Daphne rolls up in her red truck and exits the vehicle, scratching at her red hair and rubbing at her green eyes. A couple of Apaches have landed on the roof of the strip mall and Vietnam vets patrol the parking lot, looking for tuna. Tongue is on sale, but Daphne is disappointed when she learns the market will not kill the soft-shelled turtles in front of her. She offers to perform the service herself, but she is quickly escorted from the noodles and tom yum crisp by a young marine, who then deposits her roughly onto the hood of her truck. The distraction over, Daphne continues on her way.

Secondly, she stops at a fruit stand where she is offered a child to take with her, in addition to the pomegranates and kumquats she has already purchased. Daphne politely declines, but scratches at the child’s golden hair before she departs. The price is quickly lowered as it becomes apparent the deal is not intriguing enough, but again Daphne refuses to take the child off their hands.

Without warning, a young marine rises from the melons and escorts her to the
hood of her red truck.

Daphne departs.

The cemetery is at the end of a serpentine dirt road. Daphne passes by several Cadillacs and APCs that have become mired in the ditches on either side of the treacherous road. She passes a van with blinds in the windows, and as she does so, the blinds click shut. Someone inside has been watching her, and Daphne nervously scratches at her red hair.

Parking her truck at the gates of the cemetery, she is disappointed to see that the majority of the plots in the graveyard have been overrun with snakes and weasels. They bite and scratch at her as she makes her way to the open grave at the far end of the rolling graveyard.

Daphne has forgotten to wear shoes, and she can feel the squish of mud up through her toes.

Her former lover, Mr. Poppageorgio, now a toddler but rapidly aging before her eyes, is in the back row of folding chairs, holding a small terrier in his arms. He winks at her, scratching the terrier’s ears as he does so. She does not give him a single moment of consideration as she passes by him and down the small aisle between the two groups of folding chairs arranged for the funeral.

Pausing for a moment, Daphne scratches at her red hair.

She feels she should say something to the people gathered there. Turning to face the crowd, she clears her throat and speaks: “There was a time when I loved myself. It had nothing to do with the number of ribs I could count, or the rarity of hanging skin on my face.”

Daphne scratches at her red hair, which now falls away in clumps.

“I apologize for obsessions and my eccentricities, but I ask you all, with malice, could you have done any better with the men this life provides for us?”

Not hearing a response, Daphne turns and climbs into the open grave.

The epitaph on the granite marker reads: Here truths a liar.

The Basque whalers who dug the hole shuffle uncomfortably in their bloody attire. One of them coughs apologetically before being escorted away roughly by an Icelandic merchant.

As the spiders weep, the rain begins to fall in a torrent, Daphne slips into the last warm embrace of mankind.


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